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Contest winners raise cancer awareness

Although YouTube is known for its streaming videos of skateboarding dogs, performances of train-wrecked pop stars and even questions in a presidential debate, two Duke students are using it as a venue to get their research on breast cancer out to the public.

Seniors Laura Moore and Lisa Richards submitted their video "Shedding Light on Breast Cancer" to a YouTube contest sponsored by the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, in which participants were asked to create a three-minute video highlighting federally funded scientific discoveries they have made and describe how their results can change the lives of others.

Duke sponsored its own version of the competition, offering either $1,000 or two Apple iPhones to the winners. Moore and Richard's video placed first within the Duke competition and the two chose to split the $1,000 prize money.

"We knew that the video was good and unlike most of the others that were posted," Moore wrote in an e-mail. "However, we weren't sure how the judges were going to see it since one of the criteria was entertainment value... and it's kind of hard to make breast cancer funny-especially when we're interviewing our adviser and collaborators."

Their entry detailed how tissue optical spectroscopy can help differentiate between normal and cancerous tissue and how it can be used to monitor the treatment of breast cancer patients.

Moore said she and Richards began working together because they were both in the same lab and had interrelated projects.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Steve Nowicki, a judge for the Duke competition, said their entry was his favorite because it was informative and interesting. He added that the contest, which is the first of its kind, was created to promote the use of new technology and to encourage service and innovation.

"It's probably too early to see if it achieved that," Nowicki said. "The YouTube videos that I looked at clearly engaged a lot of students at Duke. To that extent, I think it is successful. It's a new world and YouTube is part of that world."

The research that they are conducting is relevant to Duke students and it has the possibility to change how breast cancer is treated, Richards said.

"It's going to make a huge impact on [the] future of breast cancer treatment," she said. "It can have the potential to reduce the number of surgeries that the patient will have to have."

Moore said she hopes the video will be able to get the research that she and Richards did out to the public.

"The video already has 376 views on YouTube, and if it wins the national competition, then it will get screened in front of an even larger audience," she said. "We've already had a lot of people come up and talk to us about our research just from the publicity it's gotten at Duke."

A total of 17 videos were submitted to the Task Force's competition, four of which were created by Duke students. The top five videos selected will be screened at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The grand prize will include round-trip travel expenses to attend the showing as well as a $1,000 scholarship. The four runners-up will each receive $300.

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